Friday, March 16, 2012

In which the tinydog is gone from our lives but never from our hearts

Her candle was small
but the light shining from her
will always be bright.
Farewell, best-loved dog.

In which I can't stop crying long enough to title this post in seventeen syllables

Last week, she seemed "not quite right."

The blood test says lymphoma.

She's stopped eating, she's weak, she's wobbly.

It won't be long now. 

Prayers, candles, crossed fingers, and kind thoughts are gratefully accepted on behalf of Pickles Marie Tinydog.

We love her so much.

Monday, March 12, 2012

In which we pause this blog for some book reports: good books for horse-lovers

Those who know me know that there's only a few things I value as much as a really good ride on a really good horse. 

On the days that the weather just won't cooperate, though, it's nice to have something almost as good:

for example:
a really fun book about a really good ride on a really good horse.

I read most of Laura Crum's books when they were first published--and I'd forgotten most of the plot details in the intervening decades (Cutter was originally published in 1994!).  I recently re-read some of the books at the author's request, and enjoyed them just as much as when they were new--maybe more.  After all these years, I remembered what I enjoyed most about the series:  that the author (and the main character, veterinarian Gail McCarthy) talks about horses the way my friends and I talk about horses. 

We might joke about our magical winged ponies, but my friends and I don't devolve into the "sparkle-pony gushing" featured in so many horse books (ahem, Mercedes Lackey, I am talking to you!!!). 

Gail McCarthy's horse Gunner doesn't sparkle and he doesn't poop rainbows.  He doesn't magically intuit the identity of the badguy(s), and he doesn't run for help when Timmy falls into the well.  In Laura Crum's books, the fictional horses run, they sweat, and they bleed just like real horses because the fictional horses are based on Laura's real horses. 
author Laura Crum and real-life Gunner
(image stolen from an online source)
Let's face it: if you can't spend the day with a real horse and with real horse people, the next-best-thing is to spend the day with a fictional horse person who acts just like real horse people act.

In Cutter, book #1 of the Gail McCarthy mystery series, Dr. McCarthy DVM is called out to treat seven colicky horses--and the horses' trainer is sure that they have been poisened by a rival trainer.  It turns out the trainer was right...but he doesn't get to gloat about it, because by the time the lab results come back, the trainer is dead and Gail McCarthy is plunged into her very first mystery.  This book introduces a lot of long-running characters: a skeptical detective, a handsome boyfriend, and some other horse owners and riders.  

And, of course, there are the horses.  Never forget the horses, Best Beloved!

In Hoofbeats, book #2 in the series, Gail shows up to a routine vet appointment and finds a hungry horse and two dead people.  Once again, the police beg her to butt out, but she continues to investigate the various shady suspects: the parents and siblings of the deceased, an untrustworthy horse-dealer, and a few others. 

Great fun, and more great horses.

This evening I finished reading book #3: Roughstock, which is my favorite of the series thus far. 
cool, spooky cover
Dr. McCarthy meets up with an old friend from vet school while they are both attending a veterinary conference in Lake Tahoe.  However, Joanna has changed since school days:  she is no long a strong-minded and independent woman.  Instead, Gail's old friend has fallen badly in love (as so many female characters in this series do) and completely lost her spine in the process.  Gail is dismayed at the change, but she still can't believe that Joanna is the culprit when another conference attendee turns up dead. 

So, blog readers who long to read these fun titles, here's a great deal for you:  Laura is re-releasing her mystery books on Kindle, for

(drumroll please)

99 cents.

Truthfully, I can't even drive to the library to pick up hardback copies of the books without spending a lot more than 99 cents in fuel, and bus fare to the bookstore is even more than that!  If you are a Kindle reader looking for something to keep your brain busy while the weather is tumbling down around you, treat yourself to a little fictional fun.

Link to Cutter on Kindle HERE.
Link to Hoofprints on Kindle HERE.
Link to Roughstock on Kindle HERE.

Coming soon: a book report for another, completely different, book for horse-lovers.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

In which we never stop gathering wood...and we never stop riding

A dear friend bought a wonderful house last year. 

It's a huge, rambling house (she has a big family--a big house is important) with several fireplaces and a woodstove.  When they moved in, the intent was to cut down the alder trees that had invaded the back yard under the former regime, and keep the huge house toasty-warm all winter with this home-grown fuel.
green alder logs
She didn't tell me that her husband and kids planned to cut down the backyard forest with a battery-operated chainsaw (runtime limit, about 15 minutes) and immediately load the logs into the woodstove.  If she had told me, I would have informed her that green Swamplandish logs don't burn: they smoke, smolder, and give off no warmth whatsoever.  My friend and her family have always lived in the city, and didn't know how (or why) to season firewood.

After a month of shivering in a huge cold house, my friend's husband fired up the oil-burning furnace, and they have been living warmly and happily ever since.

The backyard forest was a hinderence to their plans, but not a problem to MY family!
My friend's family and the Haiku Farm family, knocking down backyard alder trees
There's nothing as nice as seasoned alder wood for a fire.  It's easy to split and stack, and (after sitting in a dry place for 6 months to a year) it burns beautifully.  Around here, alder trees grow like weeds.  The trees in my friend's yard were about 6 to 8 years old, the perfect size for harvest.
Jim and me doing the chainsaw stuff, the kids pulling and stacking logs.

Willy got a lesson in chain-replacement. 

Green alder logs are WET, and they dull the chain blades really fast.  We used 4 chains on half-a-cord of wood; Jim sharpened the chains at home, and they were good for the next work-day.

With wood in the shed, I feel free to ride.  We're "seriously" conditioning now, with the first ride of the season less than 3 weeks away. (It's hard to believe that this much fun is considered serious).
Fiddle shows off her physique: lots of engine muscles, and enough fat to fuel them.
We do most of our conditioning in a group, because Fiddle needs so much practice working in a group.   

Fee is a coward at heart, and she is the equine equivalent of a "fear biter" : she is convinced that every other horse in the world is waiting for a convenient time to beat the stuffing out of her.  Coming within kick-range of other horses has usually resulted in Fiddle trying to kick the other horse in a desperate attempt to get away.  She also tries to bite other horses.  When I got her, she tried to bite and kick people for the same reasons--I wrote about fixing that badness HERE.

Major progress has been made in the "Dragon in a group" catagory!

It's taken a long time and a lot of effort and constant vigilence and she still isn't completely trustworthy.  She has made a lot of visible progress.

Some days, it's good to just head off into the woods to have fun, just her and me.  Not a training day, not working on distance or speed or form or anything:  just celebrating that she is a mostly-good horse
Solo on the trail with Fiddle. 
Photo taken while trotting 14.2 mph  (I checked the GPS)

and that I think she's pretty danged neat.